Wild Beasts have always been ahead of the curve, but there comes a time in every one of their ilk’s lifetime where they either make that jump to greatness or spend the rest of their career languishing in the lower rungs of festival bills.
Boy King very much seems like the former for the Kendal gang, an album that delivers incredibly satisfying indie tracks while pushing the envelope both musically and lyrically. As somewhat expected from an album with this title, there’s a tongue-in-cheek takedown of the indie-lad swaggering but – more of a surprise – deliciously pointed jibes at gender-normative roles.
The irony drips from the track names alone: Big Cat, Tough Guy, and Alpha Female are the opening trilogy of covert emasculation. Sure it’s pretty unsubtle, but it’s quite refreshing to hear an act like this relish lines like “now I’m all fucked up and I can’t stand up, so I better suck it up like a tough guy would”, or “won’t be your housecat, are you ok with that?/ It takes a lot of love baby, to love a big cat, are you ok with that?” – like last year’s ubiquitous Tame Impala jam, there are huge and delightful swipes at the modern male ego.
Of course, the greater irony here is that it’ll probably be lost on an indie market that largely consists of the same trolls who cry over a Ghostbusters remake. For them – and us – it’s a solid blessing that Wild Beasts keep their musicianship neck-and-neck with their social commentary, delivering their catchiest work to date on songs like Get My Bang and Ponytail, with squelchy brass and electronic wizardry the perfect backing to their indie melodies.
Boy King was always going to be an interesting listen, but even staunch fans of Wild Beasts could never have predicted this. There’ll be a corner of snobbery that’ll dismiss it as just another indie album, but it feels like a catapult to crossover greatness – huge tunes, inventive production and, for the first time in ages, a band with something pretty damn relevant to say. The King is dead… well, you know the rest.